Like so many, the moment I decided I wanted to possess beauty did not coincide with the moment I obtained control over my looks. I like to call the few years in between these moments "The Lost Years," as if I am a 60 year old man beginning his autobiography for the 3rd time. Others may call this period the "Awkward Stage." Almost every girl I've ever talked to can pinpoint and (while spastically cringing) remember these years in her life, which for me occurred from age 11 to 14.
There comes a moment in a girl's life when she realizes she is dissatisfied with the way she looks. She finishes soccer practice, unsuccessfully brushes some dirt off her knee, grabs her water bottle, pours some on her head then spits, kicks some rocks around while she waits for her mom, jumps into the tan minivan when it arrives, absentmindedly looks into the side mirror and feels her heart sink.
This feeling is confusing. So what if her ponytail is pulled back so tight that she looks like a boy solider in The Patriot? Her face is always that shiny around late afternoon. She LOVED the bright blue color of her braces just hours earlier. These things have never bothered her before. So why does she suddenly look away from the mirror in disgust, as if she had just seen her brother eat peanut butter from the jar with the same spoon he had just used to eat yogurt?
Okay. This can be easily rectified. She will buy that flowy white skirt at the Gap that will definitely make her feel pretty, because apparently that is a feeling she now craves. To the Gap! (The girl never actually said "To the Gap!" to her mother, because her mother was not present for the conversation that the girl had had in her mind and would not understand without appropriate context.) The girl buys the white skirt. But she did not anticipate the discomfort she feels as her protruding belly makes the top of the skirt stick out in a way it did not on the mannequin. Doesn't matter! She wears the white skirt because though she is not good at math, she has already hypothesized that white skirt + wearing it= feeling pretty. After a couple of times wearing it, however, she throws it out. Because looking down and seeing her stomach instead of her feet was not fulfilling the aforementioned equation.
Hair. Hair! I will now switch out of the third person to talk about the HAIR because it is too important for attempted blog mystery. I could not control the hair because the hair was BIG and WAVY and oh! the FRIZZ! I, of course, did not know what frizz was at the time because I still watched only Nickelodeon and on Nickelodeon there were no hair commercials telling me what frizz was in between an All Grown Up! episode.
I got a treatment when I was 13 called Keratin or Carrot-in or Stay Still This May Burn Your Scalp A Little-in. It was supposed to make my hair perfect. Or that's what I fantasized. That this would be the magic formula to make my hair like Lizzie Mcquire's. (The treatment did not make my hair like Lizzie Mcquire's)
Though I'm sure my friends were having the same frustrations I was experiencing, I was convinced I was alone in this constantly disappointing pursuit for beauty. So it was a difficult time. For my parents' bank account. Because I would buy every hair product at the CVS that promised me a frizz-free existence, every workout equipment on infomercials that look vaguely easy enough to do maybe every day and ALL of the weight watchers desserts at the grocery store. ALL of them.
I wanted to feel beautiful. And I didn't understand why this was a lot to ask.
Now I write this not as a tragic but triumphant tale about a once fat girl with frizzy hair parted down the middle who one day figured out how to use a hair straightener correctly. I guess I'm writing this because this "beauty" moment I was searching for didn't come from the places I expected. When I was 14 and a boy told me that I was beautiful for the first time, in that moment, I was ecstatic. And I waited a couple seconds for that feeling of pretty that the white skirt and the carrot-in never could give me. After years of burning pictures and expensive hair treatments and throwing out white skirts, this moment was finally here.
But it wasn't.
And that was even more confusing.
Maybe it was naive to think that I'd feel beautiful once a boy I liked told me that he thought that I was beautiful. Or maybe it wasn't naive. Maybe I had been trained to think this because of "society" and "magazines" and "Hilary Duff Movies." Or maybe the girl I envied in middle school had a million boys telling her she was beautiful and she seemed happy. Or maybe it was a perfectly logical expectation that has worked for hundreds of other girls but just not for me. I guess I still don't know. What I do know is that I felt beautiful when my first boyfriend laughed at my jokes. I felt beautiful when my best friends and I sat in a circle before performances and each had a turn at making the ugliest face we could while everyone else clapped. And fiiiiiiine I felt beautiful when some business dudes were checking me out one day in in the city I'M NOT PERFECT OKAY. It was a cute dress AND I LOOKED GOOD.
Anyway, now that I'm 20 and The Lost Years are far behind me, I'm proud that my cringing is not nearly as spastic when I remember my frizzy middle part. And to prove it, here is... a picture. (I urge you to at least lock the door before you start pleasuring yourself to it)
Katherine circa 2007. (That white hair band on my wrist is actually something I'm very proud of because it matches my white skirt PERFECTLY)